Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I had breakfast with a friend the other day. He spoke fondly of his children, living far away in another city, and of his recent visit. I commented that I had once visited that city; it was a pleasant place. He responded, softly almost under his breath, that “Yes, my wife would like us to move there. That’ll never happen.” I didn’t follow up on his comment. Perhaps I should have, but it seemed so full of meaning, meaning I didn’t and couldn’t understand.

Never is a long time. It’s also a word which says pretty loudly: “This discussion is ended; my mind is made up, permanently!” How sad that we can be so confident we know all there is to know, for now and in all the future. I believe when we use the word “never”, we are being very presumptuous of our supreme knowledge, and we are forgetting that the whole purpose of our life, our very being, is to grow in Wisdom and Truth. And we will; it cannot be totally avoided. Therefore, as long as we are alive we will continue to grow in wisdom, so how can we say at any point that we know all there is to know about a subject, and will never know more? How can we say “Never!”?

The person you are today is not the one you were 10 years ago. The one you will be in 10 years from now may be almost unrecognizable to your friends –and maybe even to you. Often we cannot conceive how events – natural and even supernatural – may change us and our wisdom. Looking back, 10 years from now, we may with sadness say how very stupid we were.

With age, grace, and wisdom, I’ve learned to try to keep my mind open, to almost never say “never”. Oh, it was a hard lesson to learn. I remember once saying I’d never get within a 10-foot pole of a certain young woman – but I got much closer than that. I said I’d never get divorced; later I said I’d never forgive you. I said I’d never make that mistake again, but I forgot that only God could commit to never sin. I said I’d never leave your side again, Lord, but then found myself alone.

I think we say, or think, the word “never” to close off our pains, as if by closing our mind to a subject it could not hurt us again. As if by closing our mind, we could forget the pain. How often have you used the word “never” to end thoughts about a painful subject: “I’ll never let anyone take advantage of me again. I’ll never let my son in this house again. I’ll never make that mistake again. I’ll never speak to him again. I’ll never trust God or his church again. I’ll never forgive him. I’ll never love anyone like that again. Never.”

Never is a long time, and we can’t hide from the pain that long. We should pause and reflect – and pray – whenever we feel ourselves reaching a “never” point. “Lord, give me the wisdom to know what to do, what to say, and what not to say. I need You.”

Remember, that in time you will change – and so will the person or situation or pain you are trying to shut out of your life. Even God himself seems to have grown in wisdom, or perhaps, waited until we did. When He tossed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, perhaps he wanted to say “never to return”. But he didn’t. Adam and Eve just felt it was never to return, until he stepped forward to change things.

Christmas is a time of healing. Jesus was a gift to man to heal a wound, to put an end to a “never”. I write these words on the date of Jesus’ real birth, as any good Catholic knows, the date we celebrate his conception. Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you. God opened his mind and heart to forgiveness. He opened his kingdom, his very self, to us. He made a start at uniting us; he closed his mind to “never”. He showed to man, in his forgiveness, that in closing off a “never” is an opening to “forever”.

This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

What pain is there in your life that you have stopped up with a “never”? This Christmas we are reminded that Jesus was a gift, a gift of healing, healing a very deep pain between God and man. God himself came to end all thoughts and memories of “never”. Oh God didn’t unite us again with the birth of his son, but he took the first step: forgiveness. A response would have to come from us, but he opened the door – and heaven.

When Adam and Eve walked from the Garden of Eden, having deeply offended the one, great, almighty God, they rightly believed that they could never be forgiven. They were wrong. Could you not follow God’s example, and open your mind and your heart? Or do you think your sacrifice would be bigger than the one he made?

He chose to put his Godhead into the person of his enemy, man, his offender, so no one could ever say “You just don’t understand what I felt.” He knew, he felt, and he understood. And he gave everything he humanly could, his life, to repair the lost love, the lost eternal love between us. Can’t you make an effort to begin to forgive this Christmas, to end a “never” you once spoke or carry in your heart?

God’s gift to us, his forgiveness, was in the form of an innocent child, so easy to love and accept. I pray your gift of forgiveness this Christmas may be received in the same light. (Matt 5:23, 18:15)

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